Photo by Patrick Mulvihill
Scott Baker, Hood River Parks District Assistant Director, presents a schematic design for a dog park at the Hood River waterfront at a Port Commission meeting last Tuesday. The park would provide an official option to dog owners’ practice of running canines loose at locations such as the beach at Waterfront Park. According to Park regulations, dogs are to remain on leash at all times.
As of Tuesday, July 28, 2015
This story has been updated.
The Port of Hood River has “conceptually approved” a Hood River Parks and Recreation District dog park on their waterfront property, just west of the city waste water treatment plant.
Port commissioners OK’d the idea of establishing a dog park on their land at a meeting last Tuesday, under condition that the City of Hood River approves the project. City Manager Steve Wheeler asked the Parks District to conduct a traffic study on neighboring Portway Avenue — from there, the City Council will weigh in regarding the park’s fate.
The proposed dog park is a small (less than one acre), fenced-in grassy area along the bank of the Columbia River designated for canines to frolic and socialize. The project would repurpose the “underutilized” patch of earth, weed grass and blackberry brambles south of the Portway Avenue cul-de-sac, transforming the spot into a public park for visitors and locals to bring their pets.
“I think it’d be a great thing for the owners and a great thing for the dogs,” said Scott Baker, Hood River Parks District Assistant Director.
Describing dog parks, Baker explained, “Essentially it’s a fenced in area — so it separates it from just taking your dog out to The Spit, or somewhere else where you can let them run free. This is primarily for dogs that don’t come when you call or that are just learning, or need to socialize with other dogs.”
Wheeler expressed support for the proposed park, but he formally requested a “focused traffic study” at the site, due to traffic concerns on Portway Avenue.
“I am concerned from the standpoint of possible conflicts between pedestrians, dogs and truck traffic … and I want to make sure we do it safely,” said Wheeler. “I think it will be a good idea to get a fresh set of eyes.”
Port commissioners shared traffic and safety concerns. Hood River Port Executive Director Michael McElwee called the cul-de-sac “an important turning location for bigger trucks” and expressed a need for that area to maintain operable.
The Parks District has agreed to hire an independent firm for the traffic study. Funding for the study —and development of the park — will come from the Parks District’s 2015-2016 fiscal year budget. Construction costs will draw primarily from the general fund.
According to Baker, the project will require additional fencing — the existing waste water treatment plant fence will move a few hundred feet west, bordering the riverbank. There will also be sub-sections of fencing inside the park. One area will be designated for “small, shy dogs” and one will be for “more boisterous” dogs.
The project requires piping water from a hydrant on the north side of Portway in order to irrigate the grassy area. Other elements include picnic tables, benches, dog waste bags, trash containers, drinking water and a double-gate “air lock” access point.
Baker said the park is intended as an “amenity,” not a “destination park” for dog owners. It would satisfy dog owners who hang out at the Waterfront and need a place for their pets to “get their yah-yahs out,” considering animals aren’t allowed off leash at the Waterfront Park or the Event Site.
“This is especially important as Portway gets developed,” said Baker. “Folks come from a greater distance; they want eat at those restaurants, they want to play at the Waterfront Park — but the dog’s not allowed off leash.”
The park would work best, Baker indicated, in tandem with a larger park.
HRPRD plans to establish two dog parks in the future — the alpha-park would be located in the Heights, near Pacific Power’s substation on Union Street. Entrances would lead from Union Street and Indian Creek Trail.
The waterfront park is moving ahead quickest, with conceptual approval from the Port and upcoming discussion from the City Council.
“Our city council is generally aware of this — I’ve given some general updates — but there is no discussion of changed land status. That’s a detail that definitely needs to be worked out,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler said he was familiar with dog parks in urban areas, namely Portland, and he expects a park in Hood River could be a hit.
“I think it will end up being more popular than you might think,” said Wheeler.